Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ina's Barn - Beautiful, But Stlll A Mystery

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Barn Warming
Pear, Apple and Cranberry Crisp
Open-Faced Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Sandwich
Smoked Salmon and Herb Butter

FINALLY, Ina acknowledges that she has a new barn. She’s giving a party to thank all the folks who worked on it. Great, this is just what we’ve been waiting for. I’m sure we’ll get a really good look. Maybe we’ll get to see the floor plans and designs. Maybe there will be an interview with the architects, who can talk about the vision they had for Ina’s new barn.

Oh, lookie here, she IS making smoked salmon. Sorry, Rachel, you may have been right.

We begin with a visit to Pike’s farm stand for the ingredients for the ribollita. What we want to see is the barn and she just keeps buying more fruits and vegetables and flowers.

She chops lots of onions and puts them in “a very big pot” (she isn’t kidding!) with ½ cup of olive oil. She appears to be doubling the recipe that’s on the website. She adds ½ lb chopped pancetta and cooks it until the onions are translucent and the pancetta starts to brown.

She shows us the beans that she’s soaked overnight and begun to cook for 45 minutes. She adds salt and cooks them for another 15 minutes. (By the way, if you have trouble with beans, read this.)

Ina chops up more vegetables - 2 cups each of carrots and celery and 12 cloves of garlic and adds that to the pot. Then she adds 2 TABLESPOONS of salt (I KNOW it’s a big pot, but yikes!), 2 teaspoons of pepper and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Ina stirs well (that isn’t easy) and cooks it another 7 to 10 minutes.

She slices up 8 cups of Savoy cabbage and 8 cups of kale and adds that to the pot with two 28 oz cans of tomatoes in purée. A beautiful bunch of basil gets chopped and a cup of that goes in.

Ina drains the beans, saving the liquid. She purées half of them and adds that to the soup to thicken it and the other half go in as they are with the cooking liquid. She also adds 12 cups of chicken stock. She continues simmering for 20 minutes.

Wait there’s more to add to the soup. She slices sourdough bread into 8 to 10 cups of cubes and adds THOSE, as well, to thicken the soup. She cooks that for 10 to 15 minutes. Hey, Ina, while the soup is cooking, why don’t you show us around a bit? Maybe she’s saving it for last.

She gets started on dessert – a pear and apple crisp with fruit from the fruit stand. She peels 2 lbs. of Macoun apples and 2 lbs. of Bosc pears and cuts them into pieces. She adds ¾ cup of dried cranberries and a teaspoon each of orange and zest followed by 2 teaspoons of their juices. Then ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup flour go in to “create a delicious goop in the middle.” Lastly 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon (jarred) nutmeg are added. Ina stirs everything together and fills 12 small ramekins rather full, about 1 cup in each one. She tells us how she loves the smell of the apples and spice in the air when guests arrive…That would be a nice to smell as we looked around the new digs…

For the crumble part, she mixes 1½ cups flour, ¾ cup light brown sugar, ¾ cup white sugar, a bit of salt and 1 cup oatmeal together in mixer, adding ½ lb diced room temperature butter. She piles that on top of each ramekin, remarking how special it is to have individual servings. Those go into the fridge and then into a 350° F. oven for 45 to 50 minutes.

Ina attends to the serving table. She loads on huge pumpkins, sunflowers and a big bowl of apples. She gets a cheese tray ready, which she always serves with 3 cheeses: blue, cheddar (to go with the apples) and a soft brie. Now would be a good time for a look-see, wouldn’t it?

Ina is making an herb butter to go on bread with the aforementioned smoked salmon. She smashes ½ lb unsalted butter in a bowl and adds ¼ teaspoon of minced garlic (why not just use a garlic press?) 1 tablespoon of finely chopped scallions (why not use a food processor?) and 1 tablespoon each of chopped dill and chopped parsley (ditto about the food pro). Then Ina stirs in 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

I guess it DOES look better when chopped by hand, than pulverized in the processor. But I would still use a garlic press. On the topic of garlic, when I’m using it raw, in salad dressings or a flavored butter that isn’t getting cooked, I always remove the green stem in the center of the garlic clove. (It’s still white if you have relatively fresh garlic.) It may be a wife’s tale (I refuse to say OLD) that that’s where the particularly strong aftermath of garlic flavor comes from, but if it’s even 1% true, why not just remove it?

Ina slices nice whole grain bread pretty thinly. She takes out an Atlantic salmon “done in the Scottish style”. Prior to smoking, all salmon are brined with a cure of salt and sometimes sugars and spices. There are two common methods of brining. The first method is "dry brining," also referred to as Scottish style. It consists of using a mixture of salt and sometimes sugars, spices and other flavorings applied directly to the meat of the fish. Once the fish is dry brined for a period of time, the brine mixture is then rinsed off, and the fish is ready to be smoked. Brining times will vary depending upon the species and size of the fish. The second type of brine is called "wet brine." Wet brined fish is placed in a solution of water, salt and other sugars and spices prior to smoking.

Ina slices long thin slices off the end of the salmon. As she slices, she lays them upside down overlapping. She leaves a bit of the fish intact to act as a strong base for the thin slices. Now, she replaces each piece back on the fish in the reverse order that she sliced them. Are you with me? Basically, she’s putting the fish back the way it was. She decorates it with fresh dill, lemon and plenty of black pepper. It goes on to the table with the bread and herb butter. Could we have a wider angle please, to see exactly how the room is situated?

For sandwiches, Ina slices tomatoes and fresh mozzarella about 1/8 inch thick. She’s using cow’s milk mozzarella, rather than buffalo, because she says it’s a bit firmer and better for this purpose.

She slices ciabatta in half lengthwise and spreads STORE-BOUGHT pesto on each half. (C’mon, Ina, you didn’t have a batch in the freezer? Now that you prob’ly have 5 freezers, it shouldn’t be a problem. See how nasty I’m sounding, because we haven’t gotten our tour?) She arranges the tomato and mozzarella slices over and tucks in pieces of fresh basil. She seasons with salt and pepper and places the sandwiches on wooden boards, to allow her guests to cut whatever size pieces they wish. Everything looks gorgeous.

Ina heats up the soup, puts the crumble in the oven and gets out a big bowl of parmesan and a bottle of olive oil to sit alongside the soup.

It’s party-time. The champers are opened, folks are eating heartily. That looks like a lot more than 12 people. The space does create a cavernous sound. The camera is kept tight on the food and the people, never allowing a good glimpse of the interior.

The soup is served in white mugs. “Thank you so much everybody. I love it! We’ll be partying here for a long time,” toasts the Contessa. We wish you well, too, Ina, but please, PLEASE can we see, in close-up, this amazing space that everyone has worked on so diligently??? Not this week, I guess.


Marty said...

I'm thinking she's saving the grand tour for a holiday "special" show sometime soon! That would be a wonderful Valentine/Easter/Groundhog Day program!

I've been lurking & reading your blog for quite awhile and really enjoy it. I share your love of all things Ina and I also cringe at the sound of Aunt Sandy's voice--and heinous "recipes". Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Sue said...

Welcome, Marty,
Stop by often.

I really hope you're right that there's a big special planned, but I kinda think they already would have done it. It's so unfair to tantalize us and not show the whole thing. I do get how they wanted to keep the look the same as the old kitchen, but I know everyone would like to see the details.

They should have filmed it and done a special on HGTV. THAT would have been a great idea.

Emiline said...

So her kitchen is in a barn now? You keep talking about her barn, and I don't get it. Does she live in the barn, or does she just go into the barn to cook? Or does she cook in her kitchen and then goes to the barn to have a party?

I bet you that she reads your blog.

Sue said...

Hello Emiline,
Ina built a building on her property that she calls "a barn". In it (as far as we can tell, because we've never seen it in detail!) is her new television kitchen with a dining space and an outdoor eating area, although I can't swear to any of that....WHY? Because we haven't been permitted to see it in all of its glory.

I presume she doesn't sleep there, although who's to stop her and Jeffrey from throwing a blanket on the floor and spending the night amongst the shiny appliances and gorgeous countertops? (The cameras might be a bit offputting.)

I have a feeling that the Contessa is too busy cooking, running around with her friends and holding hands with adorable Jeffrey to be reading blogs...BUT if she is...Hi Ina! I love you. Love, your most devoted fan...

Nat said...

I have been waiting like a little kid just to get more info on Ina's new kitchen and so far, I think it's so similar to the other kitchen, you can't always tell she's even in the "barn." I'll keep watching and hoping she'll give us the grand tour one of these days.

GREAT blog! I love reading it.

Sue said...

Hi Nat,
Thanks for the comment.

I think that was their idea to make it so that you couldn't tell if you were watching an old show or a new one. One difference seems to be the open shelves in the new kitchen. I THINK the kitchen in the house has cupboards, but I'm going to check that out for sure the next time an old show is on. And, of course, those gorgeous French doors are in the new one.

Fruit species said...

Thanks for your write-up recently. I'm kind of slow these days

Sue said...

You are welcome, Fruitie.

Tracy said...

It was so bugging me that there weren't better shots of the barn. I want to see it. Better yet, I want to go there!

I just surfed the net to learn that her new kitchen set is in the barn, and it looks almost identical to the one in her house. I think the barn has shelves in the background and the house has cupboards.

I recently read a good article on Ina. She could be way more visible than she is (a la Rachael Ray, etc.) but she chooses to have a life. Another reason to love her.

ac claire said...

Love your blog, Sue! I read it w/ my first cup of coffee...It's part of my morning routine now.

I gotta say, though, I don't understand the pre-occupation with getting a tour of Ina's new kitchen. Why would they do that? Can't we see enough just by watching the episodes...?

I also love your posts about Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray. More please! You articulate very well EXACTLY what I'm thinking and what bothers me so much, but reasonably and without going ad hominem.

Sue said...

I agree, Tracy. And, yes, it is almost a clone of her old kitchen.

I think I read that same article. I'm with you...I like that Ina doesn't want to exploit every corner of the universe with her brand.

Hi AC Claire,
Welcome! Thank you for the nice words.

I guess I want to see her new kitchen in detail, because I'm just a busy-body and I want to admire all the bells and whistles.

I have to prepare myself before I watch avoiding all high sodium foods so my blood pressure doesn't skyrocket.

Crustini_08 said...

This is my only question, does she call it a barn , but its actually another house for her and jeffrey?

Heavy_Cream2000 said...

I am interested as to the stain colour number of the barn's siding. Absolutely beautiful!

Sue said...

Hi Crusti,
No, it doesn't appear to be an actual house or even guest house. It seems to include a working demonstration kitchen, eating area, fairly expansive hallway and an entire room (with a window) for a pantry. Plus there's a "porch" for outdoor dining.

Hey HC2000,
I WISH we could have that kind of detail. I agree that it's a nice's so warm.

Kimberly said...

I think she sold us a story on having a "barn" built to make it sound low brow when in reality she did a total makeover on her old house. If you notice that almost 1 yr ago there were just re-runs of the shows. So that would have been ample time to demolish the old house (or add on to it, substantially). Her fans probably wouldn't have appreciated the Mercedes & BMW driving Barefoot Contessa if she would have just come out to say now that she has made sooo much $$ (and thank you so very much on buying all those cookbooks and those pricey cake mixes, brownie mixes, etc).. that now I can take my shack here in the Hamptons and renovate it to be living the life like Jerry Seinfeld and Christie Brinkley.

That would have been too much to bear. Why would she have 2 kitchens that almost look alike? If you notice there, there aren't any pictures of her "old" house.

Truth hurts... she has made millions and now is living large while we continue to guess about her "barn". Love her dearly and her food is gorgeous and tasty but I feel it was a marketing story not to sound tooooo rich.